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FROM HARPER'S MAGAZINE 

AN ILLUSTRATION BY HOWARD PYLE 



COPYRIGHT. 1895. BY HARPER A BROTHERS 



ART AND PROGRESS 



VOLUME VI 



OCTOBER 1915 



NUMBER 12 




FROM HARPER'S MAGAZINE 



HOWARD PYLE 



COPYRIGHT. 1898. BY HARPER & BROTHERS 



HOWARD PYLE 

BY FRANK E. SCHOONOVER 



IT is not the purpose of this article to 
recount by successive stages the history 
of the art of Howard Pyle nor to dwell at 
length upon any single one of the thousands 
of his illustrations.* 

If the author can draw aside, for a 
moment, the veil that surrounded the 
intimate life that existed between Howard 
Pyle and his pupils and by concrete ex- 
ample give the reader an inkling of the 
generous and lovable character of the man 
who was able, by unaided efforts to place 
upon the page of illustrative art the seal 
of the master — then the mission of this 
story will have been accomplished. For 
as Mr. Kenyon Cox says: "You cannot 

*The greater part of Howard Pyle's work was iden- 
tified with the Harper publications, and it is through 
their generosity that the article is illuminated with 
reproductions of his work. 



have the art without the man, and when 

you have the man you have the art." 

* * * 

Howard Pyle was practically a self-taught 
artist. Apart from a short time spent in 
New York and at Chadds Ford, Pennsyl- 
vania, about all of his work was done in 
Wilmington, Del. There he built himself 
a studio and later in 1900, upon the same 
plot of ground, a second building wherein 
he conducted a school for a number of 
years. His earlier work, from the first 
published drawing, about the year 1876, 
to 1894 (when he became the Director of 
Illustration at Drexel Institute) was pro- 
duced without the use of full color. Dur- 
ing that time he achieved for himself the 
lasting name of one of the greatest, if not 
the greatest illustrator in black and white 
the world has ever seen. 



COPYRIGHT 1915 BT THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF ARTS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



431 



432 



ART AND PROGRESS 



But even at that time a strong sense of 
color pervaded his work. There was a fine 
distinction of tone value and suggestion of 
absolute color as had not been produced 
before by means of such a limited palette. 
There was a difference between the green 
coat and the red vest. The vivid heat of a 
tropical sun and the cool of the shadow were 
all faithfully translated, and the reader has 
but to refer to the reproductions accom- 
panying the article to more fully under- 
stand what might seem to the average 
observer to be quite impossible — that is, to 
produce color effects with the use of no 
color at all. 

It was not entirely a sense of color and a 
knowledge of drawing that made his illus- 
trations what they were: there was a 
"something" infinitely greater in them — 
an actual living in his creations that lifted 
them, even in the early efforts, from the 
commonplace. That particular truth in 
his work that Mr. Pyle called "mental 
projection " will be dwelt upon later. 

Up to the time of his Drexel experience 
and his establishing a summer-school at 
Chadds Ford, Howard Pyle had not 
accustomed himself to the use of a full 
palette. But when the duties of an 
instructor devolved upon him, it became 
necessary to instruct in color. And it is 
from that time his professional life was very 
closely interwoven with that of the pupil. 
He developed his own art even as he 
brought out the art of those under him. 
He often said he secured much more from 
the pupil than he gave. That may have 
been true, but it is absolutely certain that 
to those pupils who studied with him and 
whose work appears nowadays in the 
various periodicals and upon the walls of 
various institutions, there was given a 
practical foundation in art such as could 
be secured in no other school. Certainly a 
sense of eternal obligation should be theirs, 
for he saved them at least five to ten years 
of laborious efforts to "arrive." And not 
one penny for instruction was charged for 
all the many hours he gave to his school in 
Wilmington. 

Surely no man without a soul possessed 
of unbounded love for his fellow creatures 
and withal as honest of purpose would 
have given so freely of his precious time to 
his students. I mention this because it 



may give to the reader a somewhat better 
understanding of Howard Pyle's own char- 
acter and of why it was so much of the 
charm of life and that same love of human- 
ity appears in his paintings. 

It was his great desire to instill in the 
minds of the students his ideas and methods 
so that they would be carried on after his 
death. This, he felt, could be better done 
in a school of his own rather than in a single 
department of a large institution. And 
so there came about, while the summer 
school was in progress at Chadds Ford, 
the inception of what eventually proved 
to be his school of illustration in Wilming- 
ton. Here it was, by means principally 
of a class in composition, that he endeav- 
ored to make the pupil think for himself. 
He strove to stimulate and help the imagi- 
nation with the ultimate idea always to 
make the picture practical and of some use 
in the world. And to this end there was 
always the physical example of his own 
productions. We were called, now and 
then, to come within his own work-shop, 
there to see the pictures that might be 
under way. Very often, then, he would 
talk to us about art, and it seemed to me 
then and even stronger now in memory, 
that the. great artist was, at such times, 
very close to the great truths of art. He 
would caution the young student not to 
be led astray by fancies and trickery, but 
to hold up always the mirror of nature as a 
supreme guide. 

And it might not be amiss to illustrate 
by a concrete example, Howard Pyle's 
great love for nature and his insatiable 
longing to open the eyes of his pupils to 
the same wondrous truths. 

It was his custom to take us upon 
frequent excursions through the low hill 
country of Chadds Ford. Upon these 
gentle voyages through field and wood- 
land, there was the subtle pointing out of a 
purple, of broken color in a whitewashed 
wall, of all the delicate gradations of tone 
and value, the knowledge of which is not 
always accredited to the varied equipment 
of an illustrator. 

I recall most vividly an October day, 
clear and cool, with a touch of winter in the 
hazy air. With easel and canvas within 
the shadow of a barn Mr. Pyle had been 
working from the models — a team of white 




WALKING THE PLANK 



HOWARD PYLE 



FROM HARPER'S MAGAZINE. COPYRIGHT. 1887. BY HARPER & BROTHERS 



HOWARD PYLE 



435 



horses and a plough-boy, posing in the 
autumn sunlight. As the light of after- 
noon faded and the chill of a frosty air 
crept up from the valley, the artist laid 
aside the brushes and called some of his 
pupils to go with him in search of ad- 
venture. We were glad to relax and to 
enter into a short interval of, perhaps, well- 
earned rest. We followed the windings of 
a small stream that brought us finally to a 
broad opening and the summit of a hill. 
On the crest of this gentle knoll stood an 
oak — a wonderful, radiant picture, sil- 
houetted against the sky. Mr. Pyle stopped 
and drank it in as one athirst. 

"Look," he said, "just look at it!" 

"It's like the exquisite creation of a 
worker in metal, a great yellow thing with 
plate after plate of burnished gold tower- 
ing up against the arch of heaven." 

"Yes, that is it," he continued, with a 
tenderness and reverence so characteristic 
of him. 

"After all, it is not a mere inanimate 
tree with its leaf turned yellow, it's fashioned 
as a human being with a trunk, arms and 
fingers, all clothed in shining garments, 
standing there to reflect the glory of the 
Divine Maker." 

How, simple and how true it was. I 
doubt if a single one present that October 
day has forgotten the translation of what 
might otherwise have appealed as common- 
place, into a world of divine purpose, 
leagues beyond the shell that surrounded 
our own feeble efforts. 

Of such a nature were the lasting truths 
gathered upon those pleasant walks of a 
late afternoon with Howard Pyle acting as 
interpreter and friend. 

That appreciation of the basic truths 
of nature, with its fragmentary groups of 
human beings, was divided and subdivided 
by Mr. Pyle into the most minute detail. 
Nothing seemed to be too small for careful 
consideration. In working upon his own 
pictures, after the broad lay-in, he would 
complete part with a loving care, that to use 
his own phraseology "was the projecting 
of one's mind into the picture and the 
elimination of one's self." "It was not suffi- 
cient," he would state, "to say here we 
will have a field with perhaps a man 
ploughing. Such a statement means noth- 
ing more to the observer than the usual 



observation that 'tins is a fine day.' But 
when that self-same field is divided into 
its gentle slopes and rises, with its growth 
of grasses and flowering things; with the 
play of sunlight and the shadow of the 
soaring hawk; when the ploughman be- 
comes a real personality and when the flock 
of crows follows the freshly turned furrow — 
then, and only then does the artist lift the 
man and the field from the commonplace 
into the realm of true art." 

When such a picture is painted the lay- 
man is interested and the artist wonders 
why he never thought of it in just that way. 

That careful consideration of detail and 
thought of the subject as has just been 
mentioned, was one of the lessons Mr. 
Pyle endeavored to teach his pupils. He 
had mastered it himself. By a quarter of a 
century of work; in the production of 
thousands of drawings, he had worked out 
what he called "The Theory of Mental 
Projection." This theory being the "some- 
thing" in his art that was mentioned earlier 
in the article. 

What is meant by the theory of mental 
projection? 

It is more than obvious from the bare state- 
ment that it has to do with projecting one's 
mind into the subject in hand, whether 
it be, as in Howard Pyle's case, paint- 
ing or writing. But that is not sufficient. 
The product of the mind plus one's indi- 
viduality very often accompany one another 
in this matter of mental projection. The 
product then becomes a mannerism and 
not a masterpiece. But when the soul 
of the mind evolves a thought, first in its 
entirety and then in its most minute detail 
and the picture is painted with all of its 
color upon that curtain that covers the soul 
of the mind : then if the artist has the power 
to reproduce that on canvas without any 
interference of his own preconceived idea, 
then indeed has he mastered that truth Mr. 
Pyle so aptly called "Mental Projection." 

Let us for a moment see wherein Howard 
Pyle's pictures exemplify this theory. His 
paintings of American colonial life and 
those of the Buccaneer are known through- 
out the world. It is not that they are well 
composed and well drawn; they are, to be 
sure. But they breathe forth such a veri- 
table atmosphere of truth that they seem 
to be contemporary and not a product of 







&&$m 





VIEWING THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL 

FROM HARPERS MAGAZINE. COPYRIGHT. 1901. BY HARPER & BROTHERS 



HOWARD PYLE 




A SAILOR'S SWEETHEART 



HOWARD PYLE 



FROM HARPERS MAGAZINE.. COPYRIGHT. 1895. BY HARPER A BROTHERS 



438 



ART AND PROGRESS 



the present day. It mattered not if it was 
the struggling continental or the swaggering 
buccaneer; within the four walls of the 
Wilmington studio there lived for the time 
Blackbeard and Kidd with the flaming 
tropical sky and the treasure of the dead. 
And then by way of contrast to such pic- 
tures, the great Washington; the suffering 
men at Valley Forge; and the many dra- 
matic incidents pertaining to the saving 
of a nation, are visualized upon the canvas. 
How difficult and yet how simple when one 
has mastered the problem of mental pro- 
jection. 

When Howard Pyle was painting "The 
Battle of Bunker Hill," he told the writer 
he could actually smell the smoke of the 
conflict and if his fellow workers in New 
York called him "The Bloody Quaker" 
it was only because he so lived in his work 
he actually seemed to have that element 
existent in his physical being. As a matter 
of fact Howard Pyle was always a gentle 
man, kind, loving and generous — generous 
to a fault. But it was the ability to live 
in the picture that, for the moment, trans- 
formed him to the character he was paint- 
ing. 

This theory of mental projection was 
ever uppermost in his mind even in the 
moments of relaxation and play. 

I recall just such another fall day at 
Chadds Ford, such as I have described 
before — save that it was later in the month 
of October. Mr. Pyle had been working 
hard all day and late in the afternoon, as 
was his custom, he asked some of the 
students to go with him for a walk across 
the fields. We discovered later the real 
object was to gather some nuts that ripened 
during the cold nights. Now it so hap- 
pened the hickory trees bordered a small 
stream and many of the nuts had dropped 
into the clear cold water. We gathered all 
we could find about on the ground and 
then looked with longing eyes at the yellow 
spots on the creek-bed. 

"Well," said Mr. Pyle, "it's a pity to 
leave those nuts; they're very good, and 
there's only one way to get them." 

With that he removed his shoes and 
stockings, rolled up his trousers and waded 
into that icy water. With sweater and 
shirt sleeves turned back he went about 
salvaging the nuts. Some of us followed 



and shortly the stream was entirely cleared. 
There followed then one of those wonderful 
moments that illuminated just what Mr. 
Pyle meant by projecting one's self in the 
picture. The water was cold; it was icy 
cold, and suddenly Mr. Pyle realized that 
fact — now that the fun was over. Turning 
to us he said with great emphasis and with 
a favorite expression : 

"By Jove!" boys, "this is the sort of 
thing you must get into your work. If you 
are painting the icy water you must feel it. 
The poor fellow at Valley Forge felt it and 
so did the ragged lot that marched on the 
Hessians at Trenton. I don't believe it's 
possible to paint a picture of that kind 
unless you feel the cold even as you feel 
it now!" 

We stepped from the stream, clothed 
ourselves, gathered the baskets and trudged 
homeward across the fields. In such a 
manner was a great truth driven home. 
Some thirteen years later Mr. Pyle laid 

aside his brushes forever. 

* * * 

Beyond that ancient art center, Florence, 
on the road to Chertosa, stands a Presby- 
terian cemetery. And there, among many 
inscriptions to those who have passed, is 
this simple statement: 

HOWARD PYLE 

Born March 5, 1853 

Died Nov. 9, 1911 



The usual competitions for the American 
Academy in Rome Fellowships were held 
this year and announcement of the winners 
has recently been made as follows: The 
Fellowship in Architecture was awarded to 
Philip T. Shutze, of Columbia University 
and Georgia School of Technology; the 
Fellowship in Painting was awarded to 
Russell Cowles, National Academy of De- 
sign, New York; the Fellowship in Sculp- 
ture was awarded to Joseph E. Renier, 
National Academy of Design, New York; 
and the Fellowship in Landscape Archi- 
tecture was awarded to Edward G. Lawson, 
Cornell University. The works submitted 
in competition this year were notable as 
being of a higher grade than those of any 
previous competition of the Academy. The 
winners are expected to arrive in Rome by 
October 1st.